In the interests of fairness and the reality that a considerable period of time is needed to establish true change and incorporate a new mindset, I have refrained from expressing my often passionate feelings on the direction taken by the Toronto Humane Society.
When the OSPCA raided - (with the full complicity of former THS staff) and subsequently slaughtered - so many THS animals during the raid back when Tim Trow was heading the THS, my own prejudicial views of the OSPCA were unfortunately borne out and exceeded with the subsequent actions of this horrific and far from animal-positive organization.
The then duly elected new President, Marcie Laking - who had spearheaded OSPCA intervention - again, unfortunately, simply underlined that the direction being taken was a world away from the direction many of the old-time volunteers had envisioned. From its opening with its fancy pens, spiffed up training facilities and 'cat" rooms, the one thing that was glaringly missing was, you know, ANIMALS. Further, there was a lot of dissension and issues within the Board itself.
As the years passed, through two tenures of Marcie's less than stellar leadership, the bureaucratizing continued - and STILL there was a puzzling lack of animals available for adoption. Further, as someone who has a wide-range of contacts within the animal rescue community, I learned - second hand admittedly (which is why I am not relating them here) - of policies which appalled me to my core.
After returning a year or more after the "new" THS opened its doors to my dog walking volunteer activities - I lasted only a few months. There was, first and foremost, the officiousness now involved in simply volunteering - even for those of us with literally a decade or more of experience and with hard-earned certificates attesting to our ability to handle any type of dog. Further, after a 10 hour work day to come in and walk a dog for the FIFTH time that day (which was at least three walks MORE than my own dogs got)- because quite simply there was SUCH a scarcity of them - was pointless.
From there I graduated to dog transport through a complex and very well organized network of dog rescuers throughout Ontario and Quebec. On monthly visits to my mum in Montreal, I often transported back anything from one to five dogs to various rescue organizations, Toronto Animal Services and the THS.
Again, I began to notice the THS preference (radically apparent) for easily adoptable dogs - puppies, small cute dogs, no dog with any issues, too large or too challenging - again, so counter to what I believed the Toronto Humane Society was originally designed to take. I do not hanker back to the Tim Trow days in the sense that I have vivid and horrific memories of the many issues prevalent then - real and terrible issues detrimental to the animals and brutally hard on caring volunteers and a dwindling staff - but I have NEVER denied that Tim's heart was the in the right place. The Tim Trow THS turned away NO animal - not the elderly, not the sick, not the hard to place.
Tim's failing was taking in far too many, developing an almost hoarder mentality and making it often challenging to adopt as he seemed to hate letting them go. This mentality was then compounded by the mass firings of staff, leaving a massive amount of animals to be cared for by a very few staff and those volunteers able to keep their heads down, as to raise any issues with Trow and his minions meant a quick and permanent exile.
What I had hoped for - what I yearned for - was a healthy facility with realistic expectations of their capacity and the HEART that Tim had in abundance.
What was begun with Marcie and continues to this day is a soulless facility that could masquerade as a pet store with a few easily adoptable animals and the odd challenging case in order to have something to send out in the newsletter and thus elicit donations.
I continue to transport - working with many stellar rescue groups (and to mention two in particular - Speaking of Dogs and Boston Terrier are EXCELLENT rescues) - TAS and THS. The reality is that Montreal has thousands of unwanted animals - and with the exception of their VERY excellent SPCA downtown (who do amazing work)- Berger Blanc is their main "pound" and has been exposed for a being a horrific slaughterhouse with no compunction about being a kill facility and a reputation which has been exposed and proven to be brutal and uncaring. Further, despite recent legislation which labels animals as "sentient" beings which are therefore entitled to due care, Quebec continues to lead the provinces as the Puppy Mill capital of Canada.
On the other hand, Toronto with its excellent network of rescues, animal facilities and fosters is often actively seeking dogs (in particular) for adoption.
A match made in heaven? One would think so - and indeed, many hundreds of animals are rescued annually from Quebec and brought here into Ontario to successfully find loving homes. I of course have to add that the diabolical BSL legislation we have here which sentences any dog with a short blocky head and muscular body to death, irrespective of sweet natures and no issues - means I have ALSO transported OUT of Ontario dogs labelled (pretty well 100% incorrectly) as "pit bulls" to find homes in more tolerant and educated provinces.
However, the point is that I continue to lose heart and faith that the THS will ever become what its founder and creator originally intended.
Due to the ill health of my mother over the past year plus, I have been unable to commit on a regular basis to dog transport - as my time was not my own and my timing uncertain. As such, yesterday was the first time in some time I have dropped a dog off at the THS.
It was truly a terrible experience.
Dog transport is a highly sophisticated, rigidly planned process. There are several co-ordinators who put out requests to a vast network of transporters and organizations when a dog (or dogs) need to be moved. Timing, places, contacts are nailed down - solid commitments made.
As such, I had a firm committment from the THS to take a young, sweet lab mix from Montreal to them yesterday. My original plans were to pick up the dog at 11 and thus arrive somehwere around 5 p.m. at the THS. The process itself has always been straightforard. I walk in with the dog and paperwork (if any), I announce I am the transporter and here is the dog from Montreal - dog is taken and I leave - 10 minutes max!
I walked in to a crowded front desk and a LOT of people seemingly "waiting" ... not sure for what. A volunteer and I think, staff member, were talking to people and basically slotting them into line. I announced myself and asked someone to come grab the dog - and ended up arguing for 10 minutes as they refused to take him and said I had to go through the regular "intake" process. I tried to explain, this IS NOT MY DOG .. I'm just a transporter - but no luck. So off I go into the Intake - where I wait 10 minutes for someone to show up - only to get more attitude. I was told my 'appointment' was for 5 (it was now 3:30 or so - I had arrived at 3:10) and "our vets are busy so you'll have to wait for your appointment".
I again reiterated - umm, this is NOT how transport WORKS - I have nothing to say to the vets as I have no familiarity with the dog - I don't have an "appointment", I had a guesstimated arrival time - "I come in with the dog, I hand the dog over, I leave" I pointed out.
Fruitless - attitude and snippy remarks drove me back to the front desk where I unsuccessfuly asked them to contact (a) a supervisor, (b) the person with whom I had confirmed my drop off. FINALLY, after another argument, wrangling back and forth with someone who never identified themselves and simply gave me attitude, I got a grudging apology and was able to hand over this very sweet dog.
What I am now left with is horror at the extent to which the THS has become a bureaucratic, officious and badly functioning, soul-destroying MACHINE - Further, a machine which claims to be an adoption facility - yet has a paucity of animals - dogs in particular - to adopt. As I stood there for my 45 minutes, I heard at least four times- "but there are no dogs".
There are, you know. There are dogs up north on our reserves. There are dogs- many of them - in Quebec. There are overburdened rescues and pounds outside the City of Toronto, many just a short drive away.
What's lacking is not dogs for adoption- what's lacking is a THS who has lost sight of what its function should be - a THS who values officiousness over action - a THS who takes pride in state of the art kennels rather than the animals that should be in them... what's lacking is a THS with heart.
It makes me sad.